Mountain landscape with hot air balloon - Pilanesberg, South Africa.
Pilanesberg National Park
South Africa is famed for its incredible game reserves and the 55,000-hectare Pilanesberg National Park, which is bursting with wild animals, is one of the country’s finest. Populated by the ‘Big Five’ (elephant, leopard, lion, rhino, buffalo) as well as zebra, giraffe, cheetah, hippo, crocodile and more, Pilanesberg offers a malaria-free safari experience rich in wildlife, with a virtual guarantee of spotting some of South Africa’s most iconic mammals and, with over 360 species of birds recorded, Pilanesberg National Park is a great choice for bird spotters too.
The park’s geology makes it quite unique; its stunning scenery and wide variety of landscapes, ranging from well-watered valleys to rings of hills and great plains, are the result of volcanic eruptions over 120 million years ago – Pilanesberg National Park is actually the eroded remains of a crater from a long extinct volcano. Rare minerals occur in the park and there is evidence of man dating back to the Iron and Stone Ages. While the park was a human settlement for thousands of years though, today it’s very much about the wild animals that live there. A 110km game fence has been erected around parts of the perimeter and while much of South Africa is experiencing a decline in its wildlife, Pilanesberg National Park is working to conserve it. The park is not in a location that would normally be inhabited by the Big Five, but over 6,000 animals were brought into the area since it opened in 1979, in one of the largest game resettlement projects in South Africa’s history.
4X4 road safaris are unsurprisingly one of the most popular activities within Pilanesberg National Park but there are plenty of other ways to view the wildlife and photograph the spectacular landscape too. Guided day hikes vary from short walks to half-day explorations and hot air ballooning offers a truly unforgettable and unique experience. Sunrise flights drift peacefully over the park, floating past herds of elephants and prides of lions as you build an appetite for a full breakfast over a glass of bubbles on your return. Whether you’re a lover or a hater of early rises, this is one time when you will be excited to hear your alarm sound.
See some of the 35 species of wild mammals that live in the park, including the Big Five
Explore the park’s unique geology, having been formed by a series of volcanic eruptions
Enjoy an unforgettable sunrise hot air balloon trip and spot wildlife from a unique perspective